Ciovita Cargo bib shorts review – robust, comfortable gravel shorts

Cargo shorts from Cape Town. With an Italian-sounding name and a definite European edge to their styling, these high-end feature-packed bibs are full of promise, but did they live up to initial impressions?

Man in cycling bib shorts with grass and hedge in background
(Image: © Neal Hunt)

Bike Perfect Verdict

A close but not restrictive fit combined with a firmer, heavier-feeling Lycra mix made these my go-to bib shorts. They feature a fantastic padded insert, a well-proportioned cut, and many useful features paired with a great finish and usable sensible extra storage, only let down by a lack of eco credentials.


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    The great padded insert was super comfortable

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    Good fit without being restrictive

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    Storage pockets worked well

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    Slightly heavier feeling Lycra is perfect in cooler temperatures

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    Have shown no signs of wear


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    Online purchase only

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    No mention of eco credentials

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Ciovita, while sounding Italian, is a proudly South African brand, designing and producing all of its clothing in a dedicated factory in Cape Town. Those who follow the Absa Cape Epic mountain bike race may have heard the name before, as it has made and sponsored the race leaders' kits for many years. 

Like the kit featured in our best gravel bike shorts feature, the Ciovita cargo bibs are an off-road take on the classic bib short but with the addition of storage pockets for carrying light items such as food or gels. Given the tough conditions they were designed for on the famous Cape Town trails, I was keen to give them a go and see how well they performed.

Close up of man wearing cycling bib shorts

The shorts material feels more robust and heavy duty than most Lycra offerings (Image credit: Neal Hunt)

Design and specification

The cargo bib short uses a lot of tech from the Corsa 2.0, which is the brand's premium road bib short. They are made using a combination of different Italian Lycra materials in a multi-panel design. Ciovita is tight-lipped about the actual Lycra used, bar it being APF-treated for optimal moisture control and to avoid odors. It presumably stops other brands from copying, but I'd describe it as a heavier-duty version than usually found on a standard bib short. Unusually there's no mention of whether the material is made using recycled materials or any kind of ethical manufacturing procedure, though.

Tailored is how Ciovita classes the cargo short, and I'd say it's a great description of the fit. They are tight as you'd expect from a Lycra garment, but not restrictively so as some compression wear or aero clothing can be. I'm not exactly built like a Tour de France pro, and I found this cut perfect. The leg length is about perfect, too – not so long that they hang over the knee with the potential for getting loose, but also not halfway up the thigh. 

Padded insert showing on Ciovita Cargo bib shorts

The three-layer padded insert was a real highlight for me (Image credit: Neal Hunt)

The padded insert, or chamois as it is sometimes referred to, is the highlight of these shorts for me. The three-layer Radon C2 pad features a four-way stretch outer fabric layer that feels great to touch and has a very soft handle or feel, a perforated foam inner layer to help with breathability, and the third layer, which is a high-density breathable Vita-Foam that gives plenty of support and shock absorption but without being too bulky at 12mm thick.

Close up of man wearing cycling bib shorts with trees behind

The elastane snap-back bibs attach lower down than standard to give more support without feeling restrictive (Image credit: Neal Hunt)

The bibs are elastane snap-back straps that attach further down than a classic pair would, the idea here being to offer more support and a closer fit without being too tight or restrictive. The front section sits around the navel when on, and the rear panel features a mesh back to improve breathability. Leg grippers are broad and feature a rubberized backing to keep the shorts in place without creating any unsightly tight spots and have a neat reflective band on the back of each leg. They have four pockets, two at the back and two on the side, made from a tightly woven mesh material with plenty of stretch, perfect for stashing food or gels you want quick access to mid-ride.

Ciovita Cargo bib shorts on wooden floor

The leg grippers are broad and feature a textured rubber backing (Image credit: Neal Hunt)


The quality of the materials used was immediately apparent the second I picked these up. The heavier-than-usual Lycra has a real quality feel. It has plenty of stretch but didn't feel as fragile as high-end options can often be, and I loved the battleship gray color my pair came in, called Carbon by Ciovita. The heavier material makes perfect sense for an off-road short; it has a far more robust feel than I'm used to, and the shorts have held up brilliantly over a long summer of riding gravel, XC, and road.

The padded insert reminded me of one of my favorite shorts from high-end Swiss brand Assos. The top layer material that sits next to your skin has a soft touch, and the pad itself has a firm feel without being too squishy or massive. It hit a real sweet spot for me; minimal padding isn't great for gravel comfort, but something resembling a nappy can be uncomfortable and a cause for chafing too.

Sizing on Lycra shorts is a long-running industry joke in my experience, and I've worn everything from Small to XL in other brands. Following the fit guide on the brand's site, I went for a medium, which worked great for me, so extra kudos for that. Ciovita says these should have a compressive feel which I'd agree with, but at no point did they feel too tight. I've had variable results from compression-based clothing in the past, especially shorts, and these are among the best I've used, really nailing the right feeling between supportive and restrictive.

Close up of man wearing cycling bib shorts with hedge behind

The side pockets are perfect for bars and gels (Image credit: Neal Hunt)

The extra storage options on the legs were a revelation for me. I thought they might be a bit of a gimmick and one I'd not really use. But after 25 years or so of using jersey pockets for stashing food, I'm not sure I could now go back to a normal bib short for longer rides. The rear pockets I used far less often, as I found the position to be close to that of my jersey pockets, and doubling up became uncomfortable, although, for short rides, they are a great place to stash a key or credit card. 

Close up of rear of man wearing cycling bib shorts with hedgerow behind

The rear mesh pockets are best used for small items like a key or bank card (Image credit: Neal Hunt)


These were my go-to shorts all summer, whether for an evening's golden hour blast or four to five-hour gravel rides. The combination of the great three-layer insert, supportive and very robust material, additional storage, and the fit that suited my body shape made them the first clothing item I'd wear for gravel and road rides. 

They are very reasonably priced, too, compared to offerings from MAAP, Rapha, and 7Mesh, considering the high quality. My only criticism is the lack of eco credentials compared to rival clothing brands.

Tech specs: Ciovita Cargo bib shorts

  • Price: $145 / £108 / €125
  • Colors: Black, Carbon (gray as tested)
  • Materials: APF-treated Italian Lycra
  • Padded insert: Three-piece with 12mm Vita-Foam layer
  • Sizes: Standard fit, S, M, L, XL, XXL, 3XL
  • Available from:
Neal Hunt
Freelance Writer

Neal has been riding bikes of all persuasions for over 20 years and has had a go at racing most of them to a pretty average level across the board. From town center criteriums to the Megavalanche and pretty much everything in between. Neal has worked in the bicycle industry his entire working life, from starting out as a Saturday lad at the local bike shop to working for global brands in a variety of roles; he has built an in-depth knowledge and love of all things tech. Based in Sheffield, UK, he can be found riding the incredible local trails on a wide variety of bikes whenever he can